The Japanese are renowned for sending flame-throwing pitching aces to the MLB baseball ranks. However, MLB has also sent some explosive bats to Japan. Three years ago, Matt Murton, a former Cubs outfielder chopped down Ichiro's single season hits record in 140 games (Ichiro set record during 130-game season). That was then. Former Seattle Mariner and Cincinnati Red Wladimir Balentien is the now.
Balentien was just another face in the clubhouse during his two years in the majors, but his search for new baseball life took him to the Far East. In Tokyo, Balentien has found that and more. On Wednesday night, Ballientien of the Yakult Swallows tied Sadaharu Oh's 49-year-old single season home run record by blasting his 55th home run. The record is tied by two other non-Japanese players for good reason.
Japanese players regard Oh as highly as Americans do Derek Jeter or the British do Kate Middleton. The Japanese are especially biased against foreign players, or gaijin. Whenever hitters have come close to eclipsing his record, pitchers have begun thowing around them and showing them a red carpet to first base.
By chance, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera, who tied the record finished the season against Oh managed clubs. The difference is that Balentien has 22 more games to hit number 56. Balentien has also benefitted from a juiced up baseball introduced by the Japanese this season that increased homers by 40 percent in the 2013 season.
It'll be interesting to see how or if he's pitched to over the next 22 games.